IIHS’s New Testing Procedure Looks For Technologies That Prevent Parking Collisions

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The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) latest test isn’t about the highway and the group isn’t talking much about passenger safety this time.

Rather, IIHS says its new test is about saving insurance companies and owners money on a surprisingly costly and very annoying type of crashes – Low-speed, reverse parking crashes.

The “Insurance” part of “Insurance Institute for Highway Safety” indicates that this organization was founded by and and funded wholly by insurance companies, who would appreciate it if you would stop crashing into things.

IIHS CEO David Zuby says that “Parking crashes rarely result in injuries, but they often result in expensive repairs.” The group gave two examples of minor collisions between a Subaru Outback backing up and hitting another vehicle’s bumper and a Cadillac XT5 backing up into a rigid parking lot barrier.

These types of collisions never seem like much, but they tend to shock consumers when the bill from the body shop comes. A low-speed, parking lot crash like the one described on the Outback would cost consumers– or more likely their insurance company — $1,899 and the Cadillac XT5’s, a whopping $3,477.

In both cases, the damage appears very minor, but bumper covers now come packed with proximity sensors, and power tailgates have cameras built-in. Even if those sensitive components aren’t damaged, a USED rear bumper cover for a 2017 Outback runs about $300. New would be well into $500 for the part alone, and that’s before you prime and paint it, and factor in the labor required to replace it.

As a result, manufacturers are adding technology aimed at making low-speed parking lot collisions less frequent.

Rear automatic braking works the same way that forward emergency auto braking does, but uses simpler technology and works at low speeds. Combined with rear-view cameras, surround view cameras, rear-cross-traffic alerts, and parking sensors, automakers seem to be throwing an abundance of technologies at car owners to help keep them out of trouble when backing up.

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Personal injury isn’t an obvious part of the IIHS’s evaluation in this case. In 2009, NHTSA commissioned a study to look closely at how many deaths per year were caused by cars backing into or over people. The answer was 292 deaths per year, not surprisingly mostly children and the elderly. In addition, over 18,000 injuries per year are estimated to be caused by a vehicle backing into a person.

The result of this study along with increased awareness of the dangers of backovers was a mandate that automakers would install backup cameras in all vehicles. Rear-impact auto braking was not part of the mandate, but automakers have not let that stop them from developing technology to prevent backing crashes.

The Subaru technology was scored “Superior” by IIHS and was one of the two best systems of the six recently tested. Yet, in its advertisements for this system, Subaru points to the technology “protecting you.” From liability, repair costs, and trouble presumably.

BestRide has tested the technology on a couple of vehicles. We have found it works great when backing up into a spot and one wants to try to come as close as possible to the rear of the space available. Picture trying to squeeze two cars into a garage one in front of the other, or trying to back into a spot inside a parking garage where you wish to leave as little of the front of the vehicle sticking out as possible. In our own testing, the technology works and has benefits that go beyond just preventing a crash.

IIHS estimates that rear autobraking systems are only standard on 1 percent of 2018 models and optional of just 5 percent. David Zuby says “So, the reason we launched rear crash prevention ratings was to encourage more automakers to fit more of their vehicles with the more effective technologies. Hopefully, in doing that, more consumers will choose them and there will be fewer crashes in parking situations.”